Tag Archives: Force Design 2030

Shifting the Role of Leader and Led: Using Year Group Cohorts to Accelerate Marine Corps Force Design

Human Factors Week

By Travis Reese 

“The United States has a perfect record in modern times of predicting when and where future outbreaks of war will occur—it always gets it wrong.”–Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

During the first three years of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 effort, there has been a lively discussion over the intended goal of the transformation coupled with intense criticism over how the debate for change has been conducted. Critics have decried a lack of openness and transparency including a debate over the degree to which individuals feel empowered to contribute to the creation of the next iteration of the force. Force Design 2030 has been unique compared to prior design efforts in another regard; not only has there been the debate among serving Marines at every stratum of rank and experience, but there has been an intergenerational challenge from retired Marines who shaped the legacy organization of the Corps upon which these changes are being measured.

This intergenerational tension in force design, even within the active-duty force, can be improved by re-arranging the relationship between senior and subordinate and creating a process that receives input from multiple generations of Marines. This can be done by passing earlier responsibility for designing the next iteration of the Marine Corps on to successive generations of the Corps from early in a Marine’s career. The Marine Corps can achieve this change in force design methodology by establishing generational cohorts organized in 10-year increments, that are tasked with forecasting force design requirements 30 years out from the present.

These cohorts can interact and transition ideas via a process of inter-generational and cross-functional dialogue captured through an electronic learning platform and knowledge exchange portal. The concepts developed on the platform can be augmented by live conferences and standing committees led by senior Marine Corps leaders actively listening to, and coordinating with cohort members to manage recommendations for force design for further development among responsible Marine Corps agencies and commands. The role of seniors will be to guide, mentor, and resource the testing of ideas generated by successor generations in continuous campaigns of learning (plural not singular) and not simply initiate or direct change through specialized efforts in ad-hoc cycles that have an uneven track record of capability adoption and meeting timely demand. This cross-generational knowledge management will also serve as a means for talent management. A Marine’s involvement in the force design process could lead to future assignments based on demonstrated interest and relevant contributions to the force design process.

Most importantly, passing some of the responsibility for force design onto younger cohorts of Marines is a way for the Marine Corps to harvest the reservoir of ideas already in the service and turn them into actionable designs for concepts and testing solutions. This will enable the service to stay ahead of adversaries and prepare generations to lead fully resourced forces for each era with a knowledge of what will come next. These cohorts would be the basis for, and creators of, force development and design solutions impacting their generation via a “crowd sourced” but “leader-managed” methodology that would inform institutional choices and force design focus.

This methodology would overcome institutional capacity limits that force the Marine Corps to plan in a sequential era-by-era fashion that potentially misses innovative opportunities that would benefit from earlier investment under a clear conception of their potential. There is ample evidence that talented futurists reside within the ranks who can contribute to force design beyond the current effort.

The Case for an Internal Forum

The Corps prides itself on the inherited legacy of those who came before, but history shows that the challenges the Marine Corps has faced are decidedly generational. Each generation of the Marine Corps needs to develop tactics, techniques, and means that fit the circumstances of their time. How soon should that start in a generation of Marines? Marines are rarely afforded an officially sanctioned opportunity during their career to formally influence the design of the force they will eventually lead. Without a well-managed forum to harvest ideas on force design, the Marine Corps is missing out on the ability to gain and maintain momentum on future concepts and develop means conceived by steady study, debate, analysis, and investment. Thus, the service is effectively decelerating its preparation for future conflict by limiting the number of Marines who can contribute to address future problems and by not having a common platform to proactively consider timely solutions.

No forum within the service exists to place those ideas where they can be received, tracked, harvested, and tested for application at the time-horizon in which they will be likely suitable or useful. Instead, Marines have relied on participation in ad-hoc dialogue through informal professional societies to contribute ideas and in professional writing. As for professional writing, there is little correlation between contributing to a public discourse and impact on the direction of the service. Marines interested in force design but kept outside of the formal combat development process are forced to play a waiting game until they are senior enough to introduce their ideas as commanders or are otherwise touched by a campaign of learning effort to support experimentation. Simply put, young Marines do not have a way to contribute their ideas into the force design process. Rather their ideas merely float in the ether of abstract conversation and vigorous, but indifferent, debate. Additionally, the Marine Corps’ force design process is not optimized to incubate ideas over multiple time frames and for extended periods.

Unfortunately, future force planning in Department of Defense frequently falls into two habits that create static logic: first, fixation on the current security challenge which becomes an anchor to perceptions of the future. This results in the military using the current state of global affairs as the model for all future conditions or second, establishing a single point in the future and then using that point alone to design a future force with more or less a constant interpretation of the threat. The latter occurs due to the institutional inertia that builds up around an adversary model as agencies work to align their programs and efforts to an accepted framework. Each change in the model often generates a halting effect on force development or design as organizations take years or better to adjust to a new conception of the future or threat. Yet, knowing this pattern of thought and activity, the Marine Corps and Department of Defense have never really considered a method to make transitions between force design efforts more fluid. Rather, every new era of challenge is “jump started” by some national security directive with large institutional transitions surrounding the effort. The Marine Corps is currently caught in this trap as it has adopted the departmental focus on 2030 as a target date and has not begun to consider the next, but inevitable, planning horizon. This is despite the fact that a new Marine today may serve until the year 2055 and could possibly face the next design effort having to change a force conceived in 2019, realized in 2030, and sustained until 2045 or 2050.

Marine Corps lore is rife with stories of determined innovators or mavericks who forced their way in the system to “save the day” with the just in time solution that, by luck, gained the attention of a senior sponsor. Trying to cross the valley of ex-officio debate and gain the notice of senior leaders to influence change may involve uncertain, and possibly unnecessary, career-risking approaches. Personal favor, institutional connections and chance notice by a senior leader are not the ways to harvest ideas for the future of the Corps. The refrain of “send us your ideas” from senior leaders is insufficient if no one is sure who is listening and there is no place to “post the letter” for a willing leader to receive and consider.

What To Do About It? Setting Up Year Group Cohorts

The Marine Corps needs to improve the relationship between leadership and successor generations to proactively shape the inevitable transition from current to future. This can be done by dividing the force into 10-year cohorts that participate in a managed service-wide mass participation learning framework incremented into 10, 20, and 30-year horizons. Why 30 years? First, it often takes 30 years to conceive and design capabilities and doctrine and put them into practice. Most of that time is focused on building an institutionally agreed-upon problem frame and discovering potential solutions. Secondly, if one assumes that the career of most senior leaders (officer and enlisted) may be sustained out to 35 years it makes sense that cohorts should cover that outcome. Third, a 10-year cohort would include groups with diversity in rank and experience to prevent myopia in terms of outlook and experience but remain close enough that near-contemporary relationships facilitate ease of dialogue and frankness of critique. Lastly, taking a longer-range look provides institutional freedom of action to explore options and alternatives free from the constraints of contemporary pressures (although informed by them) and in a more risk accepting posture.

How would this work? At the beginning of his or her career an officer or SNCO (who is now on a career-focused path) is assigned to a cohort focused on a specific time frame. Each cohort will consider how their generation will be defined in terms of security challenges and solutions. A cohort will remain in its assigned year and transition to become the 20- or 10-year group as a new cohort is created behind them to deal with the next 30-year horizon. The oldest cohort becomes the “current” year and/or begins to retire and transition from service. Groupings would be developed based on recommendations from Manpower and Reserve Affairs (DC M&RA). Cohorts would be organized as a large learning entity under a supervised management collaboration with Training and Education Command (TECOM) and Capabilities Development and Integration (DC CD&I). TECOM would be responsible to furnish access to qualified educational mentors. Professionally qualified mentors will be hired to manage the inputs, encourage research, and stimulate dialogue among the respondents. Combat developers from CD&I would be able to observe and harvest the ideas produced by the cohorts. Management of cohort contributions would be enabled via a web-based platform residing on unclassified and classified networks developed by Deputy Commandant for Information (DC I). The platform will facilitate discovery, search, and visualization of the various ideas produced by the cohorts. Problems or issues for a specific year group would be sponsored by the Deputy Commandants.

Annually, a Force Design conference would be led, structured as an activity for a regular three or four-star executive offsite. Cohort managers and mentors would provide a report back to the Commandant and deputy commandant sponsors on a cohort’s responses to a design question or specific challenge. Further, cohort managers could introduce new initiatives or concepts spawned by the cohort for consideration by the senior leaders. Select cohort members could be called in to brief their recommendations or future operating environment insights to the senior leaders. From these recommendations, debate would ensue on proposed investments, experiments, research, manpower adjustments, or concept development activities to conduct in support of each time-frame’s force development or design requirements. Nothing about this effort would disrupt standing institutional processes of capability development, acquisition, or budget planning. If anything, it would generate a faster-paced, iterative, institutionally understood, and data-informed pedigree to many force design initiatives under a participant-led and leader-managed effort. 

The overall benefits of an institutionally integrated knowledge and professional exchange framework would be vast. Rather than random discoverability of talent or ideas spread across informal learning societies, intra- and intergenerational dialogue would exist across the Marine Corps with the express purpose of developing actionable ideas on future concepts directly. Participants, without disruption to necessary career progression, can engage in early strategic thinking about the future. This would have an impact on the quality of professional military education since instruction on strategy and strategic thinking would be amplifying to an embedded institutional activity. The knowledge portal would enable the service to discovery solutions to current and future challenges on a persistent basis rather than by exception through the ad-hoc use of events like challenge days or military “shark tanks” whose outcomes on capability development are uncertain and still require interest for adoption. Iterative doctrine development and deliberation would begin sooner rather than constrained to small writing venues or billet-specific offices. Force design as a process would shift to participant-driven and leader-managed generating large-scale buy-in and removing the variable of personality-focused initiatives. Lastly, every participant would have common appreciation of each 10-year framework guiding force development and design activities which they can articulate to external stakeholders in positions to support USMC discovery or resource solutions.

The Role of Mentors

Effective mentorship is essential to this proposal and would necessarily vary from cohort to cohort. Younger Marines focused on the 30-year horizon likely need very little encouragement to conceive of the next innovations that can be applied in the future. At this phase in their careers, they would likely need more guidance on how to research appropriately, create a sound argument, understand the implications of history and where to harvest those lessons. They need mentorship in the tools that make it possible to form a testable hypothesis for their intuitive vision. The 20-year horizon group is a mid-tier professional who needs insights regarding the institutional processes that will govern force design and development. They need mentors who will advise on institutional memory and help them navigate the gates of the system that will make it possible to shift from ideation to action.

The 10-year horizon group is in the nexus of decision between realizing their concepts that have been matured and challenged over 15-20 years and managing the acquisition risk of replacing the current force. They need executive-level mentorship in decision making and risk management at this stage of force design. The same mentors should not remain with a cohort as they are specialists in certain skills with biases and conceptions that should be minimized by exposure to other schools of thought.

Overall, it is important for the Marine Corps to not select mentors based on perceived authority bias or reputational history alone. Rather, cohorts may consist of iconoclasts and relative unknowns whose talents and skills are familiar to a small group but whose history of institutional challenge and change far exceeds their reputation.

Preventing Silos and Creating Institution-wide Cross-functional Dialogue

A risk of cohorts is that they can become silos of competition and become protective or adversarial against their counterpart cohorts. This can be prevented by incentivizing cross-functional exchange among the cohorts. A simple example: the 20-year cohort is depending on a particular technology to realize their proposed capabilities. It is discovered that the technology is viable, yet unachievable in that timeframe. Rather than abandon the investment, a decision is made for the 30-year cohort to inherit consideration of this option. Likewise, the 30-year group was considering a particular advancement and it is realized that the technology will be available in 10 years.

A decision could be made to transfer development to the 10-year cohort accelerating outcomes for them, potentially generating an unexpected overmatch for a range of adversaries, but also forcing a change to manpower requirements and doctrine development. To sustain this exchange, it would be necessary to conduct an annual conference, likely geared around the budget cycle, led by the Commandant. Cross-functional discussion of cohort discoveries sponsored by the Deputy Commandant for CD&I or a cohort manager can be led and investments in various force design options can be considered under unique scenarios for each year group. This process would help shape the transition of force design efforts to a participant-led and senior-leader managed process and enable the capacity to manage investments over a longer horizon with a better transition between current and future forces.


Members of the military live and work in two timeframes: present and future. The present is all about competency with current tools and techniques to be ready for today’s challenges. It is achieved through training, practiced in exercises, and measured in inspections and evaluations. The future is about preparedness for tomorrow’s challenges and requires the planning, preparation and imagination necessary to avoid strategic surprise. It is achieved through considering future scenarios, practiced in wargames, realized through investment in doctrine and technology, and measured in live and virtual experimentation.

If anything, the efforts of FD2030 should make the Marine Corps realize that current and future live in a symbiotic relationship and although everyone is required to master the threats of today, it is equally important to think about and prepare for tomorrow. Adversaries are always preparing to develop countermeasures to our well-developed structures and means.

Rather than simply leveraging industry or academia as sources of alternatives and solutions, the same level of alternative thinking (coupled with a greater sense of the implications) can occur inside of the Marine Corps. Modern technology and information exchange has made it possible to overcome the limits of happenstance discovery and the need for patronage of reformers and thinkers that formally infused the system.

Every Marine can become a force designer. The Marine Corps can harvest those ideas into action vice merely be observers/encouragers of the dialogue. Marines can level their interest in the future training, design, and development of the force into career-making choices supported by an institution that not only cares about what they think but acts on it.

The institutional conflict around FD2030 shows that the Marine Corps must improve how it leverages each generation of the Corps in preparing for future challenges. Those decisions must be informed by relevant institutional experience, but not be mired in the preferences and predilections of prior generations. The role of responsible generations to solve the problems they will face in the future must be given a commensurate opportunity and appropriate authority earlier if force design is to become a fluid, timely, inclusive, and less disruptive in the future.

Travis Reese retired from the Marine Corps as Lieutenant Colonel after nearly 21 years of service While on active duty he served as an artillery office and in a variety of billets inclusive of tours in capabilities development, future scenario design, and institutional strategy. Since his retirement in 2016 he was one of the co-developers of the Joint Force Operating Scenario process. Mr. Reese is now the Director of Wargaming and Net Assessment for Troika Solutions in Reston, VA.

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Stand-In Forces: Disrupting Anti-Access Systems

Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week

By Joseph Mozzi

The threat of anti-access capabilities is here to stay, and the Marine Corps’ stand-in force concept lends much-needed variety to the toolbox of approaches that will allow the joint force to “break the wall” if needed.1 Anti-access strategies are not new concepts, nor are they the oft-depicted ‘deus ex machina’ that will turn vast swaths of the globe into prohibited regions for American power projection.2 They do, however, present a threat that is only increasing in capability, bolstered by the increasing evolution of the mature precision-strike regime.3 By winning the maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight, the stand-in force is uniquely capable of contributing to the systemic disruption of anti-access capabilities, generating advantages and opportunities for the naval services and joint force to exploit. It lends much-needed asymmetry to breaking the walls that many of America’s current adversaries will erect in their efforts to hold American power-projection capabilities at bay.4

There is broad congruence between the stand-in force’s role and the Marine Corps’ capstone doctrine of maneuver warfare. Penetrating an adversary’s system to eliminate its ability to function as a coordinated whole is central to the service’s warfighting philosophy,5 and systemic disruption is its defeat mechanism of choice.6 In viewing anti-access capabilities for what they are: complex systems reliant on technology, information, and human decision making; the stand-in force generates effects that both deter and provide advantages during conflict. It reinvents the traditional understanding of penetrating a denied space from the outside-in by persisting within an adversary’s weapons engagement zone beginning in periods of competition. It cooperates with allies and partners, assuming a deterrent posture as a form of temporal penetration. If competition escalates to conflict, the stand-in force already occupies a position of advantage. The stand-in force concept challenges the Marine Corps to create an adaptable system that can persist and sustain itself in a contested space, adapting its theory of warfighting to present challenges.

Anti-Access Systems

It is not the sources of power within anti-access systems that threaten external actors but the force of power that the system exerts. Anti-access approaches exhibit the emergent characteristics of complex systems: a whole greater than its parts. The sources of anti-access power: anti-ship missiles, surface combatants, and both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial reconnaissance systems, among others, are reliant on critical linkages to project force that can deny an area to an adversary.7 They are, in effect, an entirely interdependent network that must work together successfully.8

Anti-access warfare is fundamentally a struggle to gain and maintain awareness that can be synthesized within a system to result in targetable information.9 Actions cannot occur absent awareness of the environment. For example, China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles rely on information to detect prospective targets throughout their range. They are dependent on other target acquisition systems within the larger system to achieve their intended effects. Information about the environment and the means to process it emerge as critical linkages within anti-access systems. A force that can affect those linkages – denying information and understanding to the adversary – has a high potential to contribute to the systemic disruption of the anti-access capability. In this lies the potential of the stand-in force, eschewing the direct approach of penetrating an anti-access system from the outside in favor of asymmetrically disrupting it from within.

Systemic Disruption and the Stand-In Force

Systemic disruption is the result of affecting a system’s coherence. It recognizes that an adversary is a system of interacting parts and attacks the relationships between critical components.10 By targeting the connections which bring coherence to an adversary’s system, systemic disruption achieves second-order effects on individual sources of strength by negating their collective functionality. Applying lethal or non-lethal means to disrupt an adversary’s ability to acquire targets within a contested space can have effects commensurate with destroying the systems themselves that would deliver effects. In this sense, it generates results disproportionately greater than the effort expended.11 The asymmetry inherent in stand-in force maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance lends weight to its systemic disruption capabilities.

Narrowly dependent systems are less able to account for the full range of environmental pressures that may be brought to bear upon them.12 In the case of anti-access systems, this narrow dependency is the system’s reliance on information to the end of preventing the joint force from entering a contested area. By existing inside of a “denied” space during periods of competition, the stand-in force becomes part of multiple dilemmas facing an adversary. The anti-access system must detect forces both within its denied space and attempting to penetrate from the outside. The interdependence between the inside and outside forces strengthens the asymmetry. Unmanned target acquisition systems employed in-depth by the stand-in force are the forward edge of an integrated system encompassing not only stand-in force lethal capabilities but those residing in the fleet and joint force. The stand-in force can give and take, augmenting its actions by integrating external capabilities while generating opportunities for the fleet and joint force to exploit in its wake.

Successful reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance in periods of competition keep the stand-in force and fleet in a position of information advantage over the anti-access system through the transition to conflict. Stand-in forces create an area within which the anti-access system cannot aggregate the targetable information required to function. While the stand-in force denies the anti-access system information vital to its efforts to target the fleet, it remains a lethal and elusive obstacle that must be addressed. The anti-access system must expend increasing resources to “detect” and continuously “track” a force benefitting from high intra-theater mobility, low signature levels, decoys and deception, and lethal precision capabilities. Robust reconnaissance efforts support the counter-reconnaissance fight by identifying adversary collection patterns over time, ensuring both the fleet and stand-in force remain ahead of adversary decision cycles.

Stand-in force actions force the anti-access system to adapt to an unexpected threat. Air Force Colonel John Boyd characterized a theory of systemic collapse where actions present as “simultaneously menacing…ambiguous, chaotic, or misleading.” These actions induce confusion and disorder into the system.13 To remain viable, the system must adapt by seeking new and perhaps riskier means to gain the information it requires to function. Without a complete understanding of its threat environment, it decompensates as challenges cascade faster than the system can adapt to them.14 Refocusing and repositioning target acquisition systems to locate the stand-in force will rob the anti-access system of vital capacity that could be dedicated to detecting the fleet while increasing its exposure to the lethal capabilities of the stand-in force.

The Stand-In Force and Maneuver Warfare

The realization of the stand-in force must be accompanied by a continued embrace of maneuver outside of the spatial domain. While spatial maneuver is fundamental to the success of the stand-in force in both competition and conflict, the Marine Corps’ capstone doctrine is careful to underscore that the service must “consider maneuver in other dimensions as well.”15 As a philosophy that aims to shatter an adversary’s cohesion through actions that generate a rapidly deteriorating situation, any action that generates and exploits advantage – executing maneuver in “all dimensions”16 – is well nested in the service’s capstone doctrine.

As information is a critical linkage within anti-access systems, the broader maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight becomes a centerpiece to the stand-in force’s actions to achieve an advantage. These actions are fundamentally maneuverist in their effects, generating interconnected temporal, cognitive, and spatial advantages over an adversary. Temporal advantage begins in competition. The stand-in force in partnership with allies generates a persistent and baseline awareness of adversary systems and decision processes, a product of intelligence-led operations.17 This contributes to cognitive and temporal advantages in conflict, allowing the stand-in force in cooperation with the fleet to anticipate and remain ahead of adversary actions,18 dictating the terms of escalation or return to competition. Successful counter-reconnaissance also supports spatial advantage, as rapidly mobile and low signature forces use their understanding to achieve positions to hold adversary forces at credible risk. Spatial maneuver converges with temporal, cognitive, and informational maneuver to generate these advantages for the force.

For the Marine Corps, this forward-looking embrace of an expanded understanding of maneuver warfare must occur at all levels of leadership. The Marine Corps prides itself on teaching its leaders how to think, not what to think. Limiting one’s conception of maneuver warfare to the bounds of the land domain and spatial maneuver ignores the true potential of a timeless theory of achieving advantage and winning in both competition and conflict. The Marine Corps is currently training the non-commissioned and company-grade officers that will form the core of tactical-level leadership in the stand-in force of the future. They must retain a conception of maneuver warfare’s continued and timeless relevance.

Implications for the Stand-In Force

Depriving an anti-access system of information that forms the critical linkages between its sources of power is not the job of any single entity within the stand-in force. It is a task levied on the force as a whole. While the Marine Corps understands this fact,19 it presents potentially the greatest challenge to translating the concept of a stand-in force into a persistent and forward-deployed system that can provide these functions to the fleet and joint force. A holistic stand-in force that can win the maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight will contribute to the systemic disruption of an anti-access system. If the stand-in force cannot, it will in turn be isolated and vulnerable.

There are elements of both art and science that will contribute to realizing the stand-in force. Sustainment and logistics methods that can support a stand-in force at scale and in conflict,20 advancing unmanned capabilities as a service in partnership with the Navy,21 and the rapid maturation of the information maneuver occupational field are a few examples of capabilities that will enable success.22 The stand-in force must be able to persist over time and throughout the depth of the environment.

To say that the concept of stand-in forces is high-risk and high-reward is perhaps an understatement. While current events in Ukraine can shed some light on the realities of future conflict as they apply to the Marine Corps,23 experimentation within the concept of stand-in forces is still largely anticipatory. Force Design 2030 is subject to an ongoing series of wargames to assess future force design and its associated concepts.24 Even the best-designed wargames are not completely predictive, at least not in the sense that they reduce the realities of conflict to a formulaic problem of right or wrong answers that can guarantee success.25 They can, however, provide a valuable means through which to reduce the complexity of problems to illuminate constraints, test theories, and challenge hypotheses.26 The end product of these efforts is a best assessment of what a future maritime fight may demand. 

The uncertainty that will always surround the future battlefield is perhaps the Marine Corps’ greatest advantage in preparing for the future. Recovering from battlefield surprise is the best test of a military’s adaptability. Even the best efforts to anticipate the character of future conflict will in some ways come up short, and how a service develops itself to respond contributes greatly to its success or failure. In his book On Flexibility, Meir Finkel might as well have been speaking of the Marine Corps when he outlined requirements for successful battlefield adaptation. Warfighting doctrine must be “open” and flexible enough to adapt to emerging battlefield realities, being of immediate utility while at the same time supporting change at the tactical level. Diverse force structures must provide complementary capabilities and solutions to meet emergent problems. Doctrine and force structure must be supported by a decentralized command and control model supported by cognitive flexibility. These attributes must be fostered through formal education and training, which arms leadership with the ability to meet new challenges effectively. Perhaps most importantly, improvement must be a central pillar within the organization.27

Stand-in forces will provide a valuable capability to the joint force to deter adversaries and, if necessary, disrupt anti-access systems in times of conflict. The success of stand-in forces is incumbent on the Marine Corps’ ability to realize an adaptable system that can persist and sustain itself in contested spaces. Its success will not be the result of any singular capability but of the competencies of the force as a whole. Warfighting remains a timely and relevant capstone doctrine to understand and realize this emerging concept, providing Marine leaders with the cognitive foundations to adapt to emerging demands. As the current and vibrant debate over the merits of Force Design 2030 indicates, the Marine Corps’ longstanding commitment to improvement lends confidence to the idea that the service will get it right.

Joseph Mozzi is a Marine Corps artillery officer. He is currently a student at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff Officers Course.


1. “Break the wall” from Sam Tangredi, Anti-Access Warfare, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013).

2. Luis Simon, “Demystifying the A2/AD Buzz,” War on the Rocks, (January 4, 2017).

3. Andrew Krepinevich, Maritime Competition in a Mature Precision-Strike Regime (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2014).

4. A more in-depth discussion on how America’s various adversaries could employ anti-access strategies can be found in Anti-Access Warfare.

5. Headquarters Marine Corps, MCDP 1, Warfighting, (Washington, DC: 2018).

6. For further discussion on systemic disruption, maneuver warfare, and the Marine Corps, see: Marinus, “Defeat Mechanisms,” Marine Corps Gazette, (July, 2021): 101-106.

7. The idea of sources, forces, and linkages of power is drawn from Pat Pentland, Center of Gravity Analysis and Chaos Theory (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air War College, 1993).

8. Anti-Access Warfare.

9. Ibid.

10. Marinus, “On Defeat Mechanisms”.

11. Ibid.

12. Murray Gell-Mann, “Complex Adaptive Systems,” in Complexity: Metaphors, Models, and Reality, ed. Cowan Pines et al (Addison-Wesley, 1994).

13. John Boyd, ‘Patterns of Conflict,’ in A Discourse on Winning and Losing, ed. Grant T. Hammond (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 2018).

14. The idea of decompensation in complex systems can be explored further in David D. Woods and Matthieu Branlat, Basic Patterns in How Adaptive Systems Failin Resilience Engineering in Practice: A Guidebook, ed. Erik Hollnagel, and John Wreathall (Taylor & Francis Group, 2010).


16. Ibid.

17. Headquarters Marine Corps, The Tentative Manual for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, (Washington, DC: 2021).

18.A Concept for Stand-In Forces.

19. Headquarters Marine Corps, “Recon – Counter Recon,” Official Website of the United States Marine Corps, (August 2, 2021).

20. Daniel Katzman, “Sustaining Stand-in Forces,” Marine Corps Gazette, (March, 2022): 14-19.

21. Navy Press Office, “Navy and Marines Release Unmanned Campaign Plan,” Official Website of the United States Navy, (March 16, 2021).

22. Gregory Carroll, “Marine Corps Establishes 17XX Information Maneuver Occupational Field,” Official Website of the United States Marine Corps, (March 9, 2022).

23. Noel Williams, “Insights for Marine (and Beyond) Force Design from the Russo-Ukrainian War,” War on the Rocks, (March 31, 2022).

24. Tim Barrick, “On Future Wars and the Marine Corps: Asking the Right Questions,” War on the Rocks, (April 12, 2022).

25. For a further discussion on wargaming see Robert Rubel, “The Epistemology of War Gaming,” Naval War College Review, 59 (2): 1-21.  

26. Bob Work and Gen. Paul Selva, “Revitalizing Wargaming is Necessary to Be Prepared for Future Wars,” War on the Rocks, (December 8, 2015).

27. Meir Finkel, On Flexibility: Recovery from Technological and Doctrinal Surprise on the Battlefield, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2011).

Featured Image: U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 12 Marines, 3d Marine Division, deploy High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems during Balikatan 22 in northern Luzon, Philippines, April 4, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanye Martinez)